Friday, June 30, 2006

i think i've turned into a coffee addict. i think i have at least half a cup a day. i wonder what would happen if i didn't. i must test it out. it seems, though, that it would be very unJapanese of me to forego the caffeine. the pot in the teachers' kitchen gets brewed three or four times a day. We have an expresso maker. We also have single use coffee packets of French Vanilla and Hazelnut. How can one resist? Yes. of course, i can drink water. I do drink water. Lately because of the heat, i've been going through two Nalgene fulls a day at the minimum, more on karate days.
Today i came to school after waking up from a refreshing 8 hour sleep, but felt ready to collapse and doze off through the third period of the day. Don't know why.

The story contest was last Saturday. 30 students participated and some of them were really good. A little girl, who looked smaller than her 3rd grade in Junior High, told a scary story. I was sitting next to Ben and when at first she started off slow and deliberate, i hadn't yet realized that it was meant to be a scary story, and told Ben that i was frightened of the girl. Then she went into a menacing voice and i was laughing. she was awesome. the most amusing of them all, but she didn't win. but my student took second place. he was good, though. and Kelly says he was funny. I picked the story because it made me laugh, so i thought it wouldn't hurt if the judges and audience did as well. And he's good at telling it. So on Monday, the JTE, Yuu, and I get to drive down to Naha to participate in the prefectural story contest. Wish us luck!

A giant spider is walking through the file cabinets next to the computer desk. I pointed him out to the head teacher and she just smiled and pushed him away. I guess he's harmless, wish i knew that when one just like it showed up at my apartment last week and Kel and i freaked out. I ran around with a vacuum cleaner and we screamed a bit and then Kelly attempted to take a photo, but it didn't work out.

let's see. in the news. Ben bought a unicycle. There's a cool bar just a 5 minute drive from my house with a pooltable and dart boards. Dina and Boris had a beautiful baby girl, Congratz!! i learned how to dye with indigo Okinawan style. Students in my English Club now have hotmail accounts. We have started a new conversation activity in all three grades and it seems to be working. Profiles are up of incoming JETs and more are on the way. and that's just really exciting 'cause we're all awaiting their arrival. and if you're an incoming JET and reading this--don't worry too much...we're all lovely people.
Block 1 was finally and rightfully declared the winner of the Block Games that ended months ago. The earned money will pay for the Block "goodbye" gathering that is in the works. It's deffinately a weird situation to be here. We're all here temporarily. We all know it. And yet, going through these experiences brings people very close, very quickly and parting with them is incredibly sad. These people are a part of what i know to be "Okinawa" and not having them here in a month, even if i don't see some of them very often, is going to be rather strange.
but like i said, looking forward to the new ones. :)

this blog feels incomplete and very disjointed, but i'll still publish it for lack of a better option.

i'll try and think through something more complete to write this weekend in between soccer games and lounging on the beach.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

whenever encountering a blank page, i always consider the possibilities.
for this one, they are numerous yet i am struck by the understanding that at the moment i do not posses the ability to adequately describe any of it.
perhaps it is because i have just come back from reading David's description of Ben eating yoghurt, and my skills in the English language, whatever they might have been, now feel squeamisly inferior and want to run for the next dark corner.
but there are no more dark corners. they have gone with the rain. The rainy season they say is over, and am gland for that. It poured onto the island relentlessly for a month, stopping only to break up the pace a bit in mid afternoons to tease and spoil the mood when it would once again open up the kennel and let out the cats and dogs. The rain was only pleasant at times, spectacular in others. It poured like it meant it and later i learned that it was an unusual amount. Apparently Okinawa was in the news on mainland for having received 6 times the normal amount of rain.
At the close of the rainy season, mold exploded for a last chance before the sun regain its position on the island. The mold is greenish and blueish in color. It prefers the surfaces of plywood, attacking the undersides of tables, chairs and back surfaces of night stands and hutches. It was irritating to get rid of and screams of anger could be heard in my apartment when i discovered the tiny mold circles on one of my India tunics, a pair of orange "thai" pants and my lovely, black, 100% linen, embroidered dress. How dare it!! I can accept the shoes. But my dress?!
with a sigh i proceeded the cleaning process.

and now. the sun is out. it is back with a vengence. We are back to humidity in the 60th percentile and it is once again possible to dry out the entire load of laundry in an afternoon on the balcony.

and school? it's been uneventful yet blissful. This week is short, Friday off for Okinawan Memorial Day. On Monday and Tuesday, students took the midterms, and for the entire week i had nothing much to do. I corrected some tests. I made up the new English bulletin board, which admittedly took some time. The new board's theme is the World Cup. There's a profile of David Beckham, because students actually know who he is (who doesn't?), a list of all participating countries, photos of animated fans stolen from the official website, a worksheet to match up the fans with their countries, and a couple of other items. am proud of this one. hope the kids give it a glance.

yesterday was also the English Club evening. We spent it in the computer lab acquiring e-mail accounts. I wanted the girls to start creating their own webplace on but none of them had e-mails, so we had to start there. took a while, but it was fun, and it was inspiring to see them all excited when they received a reply to their e-mail from me or their friends. i must have been excited in the same way.
but i am old now, and don't remember that innocent year of 1995 well enough to recall.

tonight shall be spend in the luminous company of Ms. Kelly, whose wonderful mother had just turned 50 years old. Many wishes! we shall do nothing much of anything, but perhaps go to Okuma around evening time to catch the 11pm game of US vs. Ghana.
Friday shall be rest day to counter all religions, except Islam, and Saturday is the Story contest. Am actually really looking forward to it. One of my students might have a chance in the competition if she doesn't get too flustered. All junior high ALTs from the north area will be present as we've all worked hard with our students in prepping them for the show down. Afterwards, food and drinks shall be had.
Sunday? Mayhap ultimate frisbee? Anyone keen?

and please say "hello" to my new friends aka pets, the five incredibly genki gold fish. I shall do my best to take care of them as well as did their previous owner, Isla.


P.S. finished "Pale Fire" by Nabokov. Would highly recommend it, can't stress how highly, to anyone looking to laugh out loud and meander through playful use of the English language. any and all knowledge of the Russian language is helpful in adding to the enjoyment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

how i spent my birthday

in the theme of summer write-ups, since it's summer, and reporting on things that have happened is the purpose of this blog.

On sunday (the day before my birthday) i watched Ogimi girls and boys play basketball. Baseball and tennis were cancelled due to rain, so the whole school was at the gigantic Nago gym with loads of other northern area junior high schools.
Ogimi girls won both games on the 11th, but the boys lost their second one. The girls were on fire: fast, furious, unstoppable. I'd never seen them play before outside of school practice, and was quite surprised. In the second game, they beat Ginoza JHS (Tracy's school) by 40 points.
On the 12th (my birthday) the girls played two matches. The lost the first one to Nakijin JHS (Rodger's school) and played the next game for 3rd place finish against a Motobu JHS. It was an exciting day of sports. I realized how much i cared for each of these girls and how much i wanted them to win and how proud i was of all of them, but especially of the twins, Mirei and Mikoto, who are awesome players, have great personalities, and celebrated their birthday the day before mine.
And perhaps i have a soft spot for them because my sisters are twins. Possible. :)

After the games, i rushed to meet David and Rodger so that we could drive together to Camp Schwab to meet Anna who agreed to accompany us with her pass to see the third XMen film. I liked it enough, but it not as good as the previous films. Direction was choppy, dialogue sometimes forced and filled with one-liners. The acting, however, was still good and basically the only thing that saved it, because there was basically no story to speak of. Sad, really. It could have been better.
A nice action flick, though, and fun in parts.

After the movie, it was dinner at Yukino with a few friends. I finally ordered something different at Yukino. I usually get the sashimi salad dinner set, but last night went for the sushi platter--fantastic. But the food wasn't as important as the company.
Josh surprised me with six tiny eclairs brighted by birthday candles and everyone sang. A bit later on, David came with a cake him and Ben got for me. It was delicious!! And the presents were great as well. The funnest were the watermelons i got from both David and Rodger, and they didn't conspire about it. The two watermelons made for a fun picture.
After the dinner we all went to watch the Japan vs. Australia match at a sports bar in central Nago. It was packed and the fans were excited. It was a fun game to watch, even though Japan lost. I drove home in very high spirits after a fantastic day. Even though i miss my family a lot, especially on my birthday, it was fantastic to feel how much my friends here care about me. I got e-cards and keitai messages from friends around the island, and they made me feel like i made a new family here, one that i love and care about.
Thank you all so much!!

and thanx to my sister who put together a great birthday surprise for me on the Fotki site and made my day!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

what's in a game

It's official. An hour from now the majority of the world's male population will be immobilized by the recuring need to know the score of a football match.
Do you appreciate me calling it by its "real" name?
There are too many people on the island lost in the frenzy to ignore the subject completely, and while i have no pretentions of being a fan of the game or knowing anything about teams, players, standings, and favorites i have been caught up slightly in the excitment.
Thanx to my local footballing expert, Ben, i am now versed in groups, past winnings, some player stats, and of course who has what chance of making it to the semis and finals.
So for all those keen for knowledge, i will have a link to the Official Website for all FIFA enquiries. I might even catch a glimpse of a few games myself, scheduling permiting. We are, of course, at an inconvenient time zone. The live games are played in Japan at 1am, 4am, and 10pm.
So the first game is Germany vs. Costa Rica.
Goodluck all.
I'll be cheering for Japan, although they are in a tough group.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

i am late with the promised post. apologies.

the student teacher has dissapeared. it's the first period of the day, technically a free one, the one during which the JTE and i plan for the day. we have three classes in a row after this one and i have no idea what she has planned. it only confirms my growing belief that Japanese teachers of English consider us, ALTs, incredible English spewing machines, able to operate at any hour of the day or night, given absolutely no notice or expectations.
and to be honest, i suppose it's true in a way. we can do it. we can come up with things on the spot in our own language. simple things. not the entire lay out of a class!
anyways. that's my day. and it just started.
and it's really not as bad as i'm making it seem. i'm quite happy being a robot as long as i'm allowed to move about the kids and talk to them. and the student teacher is quite good actually. she's 22 and grew up in Ogimi, so actually went to this school herself. Whenever she leaves the teacher's office, she does like the kids: turns, bows and says "shitsurei shimashita" (meaning "really sorry a lot"...sort of). i think it's tres cute; some habbits must be hard to get rid of.
she's been good in the classroom. has a strong presense and will do well on her own. only problem right now is that she forgets she has an ALT. but that just might be the nerves of keeping it all together in her head. at least, i had a couple of months of observation before i stepped up to the teaching plate. she's in there right away and only for 3 weeks.

the students are getting ready for the big sports weekend. It's the 3rd graders last chance to play club sports before they have to give them up to study for HS entrance exams. So Sunday all sports clubs play in different areas in the north, and everyone from the school goes and watches. On Monday, we'll go watch any of the teams that have gotten to the top 4 rounds. Then we have Tuesday off to make up for "working" on Sunday. Of course, if the kids don't make it to Monday rounds, then we just have the monday off. works out well for everyone, especially me.

and the trip was great. it was an eye opener on Japan but more on the spirituality of Japan than anything else. I truly loved Kyoto, and Kobe was great. Osaka was so-so, but i was only there for 24 hours, so not a fair assessment. I did see an exhibition of Chagall's work in Osaka and that was one of the highlights of my trip. I saw the flyer for it at the Kansai Airport when i flew in and was beaming with delight for the rest of the trip just knowing that i would get to see it before i left mainland. It was a wonderful exhibition. 27 paintings and 100 prints.

I also got to spend time in rural Japan. I took a day trip after Kyoto on the way to Osaka and stopped in a small town of Asuka, famous for its archaeological treasures. Numerous earthen mounds were excavated in that area, dating from 1400 years ago. The Asuka temple is the oldest Buddist temple in Japan and its Budda, the oldest bronze Budda statue in Japan. I walked for hours, at one point joining hordes of elementary school kids through their walks of the same areas.

The best part of the trip, however, was the trip to one of the areas in northern Kyoto. I wanted to visit a temple complex in the mountains, but one of the reasons for picking that one in particular (as there are hundred of temples to see in Kyoto if not thousands) was the route. It was a 50 minute bus ride, a 5 minute ride on a cable car, and then a shorter ride on a rope way all the way to the top. At the top, i started a 30-40 minute hike down to the temples. It was one of the best hikes of my life. Rivals the hiking in the Blackhills of South Dakota. I was alone for most of it, only briefly seeing a couple walking in the oposite direction. As i walked through the tall, slim woods, every once in a while a temple gong would reverberate through them, creating a hollow sound all around, moving through the trees, bringing them to live for a brief moment and dissipating slowly.
It was a foggy, rainy day, and the clouds hung low. I don't know if outside of an airplane, i've ever "been" that close to the clouds.
In short, a walk to remember.
And the temples were pretty good as well. :)

I was sitting alone in the computer lab. It's later in the afternoon and all classes went off smoothingly. 5 1st grade girls just walked in, a bit of noise in the room.

I have an hour before story contest practice and then off to karate. I haven't gone for nearly three weeks now. Missed three classes because of the trip and two before that because i was being....meh...
but today am sick and can't skip.

the photos from the trip are up, as well as a few random ones from the keitai. i haven't written captions for all of them yet. too many at ones.

oh. saw "Inside Man" and "the Da vinci Code" on base. really really liked the "Inside Man" and not just because Clive Owens is one the best looking actors out there; the direction was great and the story good. Denzel Washington doesn't age, does he?
The "Davinci code" was passable. i haven't read the book but think i followed the story of the film in its entirety. I really liked the historical stories and the way they were recreated within the film. I also really enjoyed Ian McKellan and Paul Bettany's performances. Otherwise. meh.


Friday, June 02, 2006

this has nothing to do with anything, but i'm going to list the books i have read while in Okinawa. so in case you're looking for something different to read, please continue with the post. or maybe you're just curious. if you care not for either of the options, please come back at a later date (June 5th would be good) to read about my trip to mainland and my school days since i came back.

thanx to my dear friend Shelley who a year or so ago gave me a little book called "what i read" in which i have been keeping track of my reading, the quotes i like, and any wish list items for the future.
i'll rate the books i read out of 4 stars; and please keep in my mind, that i am by no means an expert on what you'd like. :)

August 2005 re-read April 2006Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceJ. K. Rowling3 and a half stars
August 2005A tree grows in BrooklynBetty Smith3 and a half stars
August 2005The Life of PiYann Martel2 and a half stars
Summer 2005The Dark Tower III:
The Wastelands
Stephen King3 and a half stars
October 2005Tuesdays with MorrieMitchell Albom2 and a half stars
Nov-Dec 2005The Dark Tower IV:
The Wizard and the Glass
Stephen King3 and a half stars
December 2005
The GiverLois Lowry3 stars
Dec-Jan 2005-6
The God of Small ThingsArundhati Roy3 stars
February 2006IshmaelDaniel Quinn2 stars
February 2006Crime and Punishment
in original
Fyodor Dostoevsky4 stars
March 2006White NoiseDon DeLillo3 stars
March-April 2006Lady Chatterley's LoverD.H. Lawrence3 stars
April-May 2006Razor's EdgeW. Somerset Maugham3 and a half stars
May 2006The Second Summer of the SisterhoodAnn Brashares2 and half stars
currentlyPale FireVladimir Nabokov
currentlyThe Dark Tower V:
Wolves of the Calla
Stephen King